Monday, May 27, 2019

Remembering One Special Soldier on This Day

The child in the above photo is my daughter, Lauren, many years ago in Arlington National Cemetery while visiting the grave of my uncle, Willard Starns. Willard died on September 6, 1943–just one month short of his 25th birthday–in the service of his country.  Today we remember him and all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Family Matters

Willard was a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Force (AAF) and served as a navigator for the second mapping squadron. He was the oldest of five children and, prior to the war, had been the valedictorian of his high school class and attended Louisiana State University. He joined the military on November 17, 1941.

My dad (the boy on the left) and his family prior to the war:  Alma, Bob, Millie, Fan, Willard, Emma, and Fred Starns

Lifelong Loss

My father, who thought of his beloved older brother as his own personal hero, was fourteen years old when the family received news of Willard's death by airplane crash in Peru.  My dad was utterly devastated and mourned his brother for the rest of his life.

As you can see from the document below, Willard was originally buried in Panama but was reinterred at Arlington five years later.

Over the years, my father was able to visit Arlington several times, where he tearfully paid his respects to the brother he loved and missed so very much.

High Flight

A few years ago as I was going through some old photos, I ran across this portrait photo of Willard (so handsome!) then realized that someone had written a poem on the back of the picture...


To more easily read the poem, "High Flight", which was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., visit this link.  

I especially love the final line, in which the pilot tells of flying so high that he put out his hand "and touched the face of God." Amen to that.

Thanks for letting me share about this brave fallen soldier from our family.  Blessings to all on this beautiful Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quote of the Month

Will you be taking any driving vacations this summer? Recently, I was reading an article about road trips and ran across this quote, which I thought was great. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Questioning Myself

Did you know that almost every Monday on Facebook I ask a question about reading or books, and then, on the following day, I pick a winner from the comments and send them a prize? Here are some recent and upcoming prizes and their corresponding dates…

I love reading through everyone’s answers to the questions each week, especially when those answers lead me to discover some great new books.

My Turn

Recently, it struck me that I rarely, if ever, answer any of those Monday questions myself. So for today’s blog, I decided to do just that. Below, you’ll see that I have pulled together all the questions I’ve asked thus far this year, with each one followed by my own answer. I actually had a lot of fun thinking about my responses. 

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.)

1. What’s one of the best books you read in 2018?

Can't limit it to just one. I read some great nonfiction last year, including these two favorites:
            When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
            The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott 

For fiction, I think my favorite reads of 2018 were:

            Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

            Forevermore by Cathy Marie Hake (Note: This one was recommend by several of my 
            readers on Facebook, and they were right, it was so sweet.)

My mom, Jackie Starns, caught reading on the couch 
2. When you were growing up, who in your life absolutely loved to read?
Everyone! My grandparents, parents, older brother, best friends, etc. We were all big readers, and we loved to share our favorites with each other.

3. Read any inspiring biographies lately?

4. What's one book you're embarrassed to admit you've never read?
War and Peace. Never even cracked the cover—and I was an English major. J

5. What book(s) are you currently reading?
A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert, Voice of the Eagle by Linda Lay Shuler, The Logevity Paradox by Steven R. Gundry, The Numerati by Stephen Baker (fascinating!), and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. 

6. If you could sit down with an author and ask any question about writing or publishing, what would that question be?
"How do you manage your time?" I always ask other authors this because it’s my biggest challenge as a writer. There just never seem to be enough hours in the day to write good books and have a life.

7. One book at a time or several?
Several!  I usually have 5 or 6 going, and I find myself mostly reading nonfiction in the morning and fiction at night.

8. Which fictional character makes you swoon?
I must confess, I’ve always been a bit in love with Travis Naquin, the hunky hero of my own Under the Cajun Moon.

9. Standalone or series, what's your preference? 
Either is fine with me.

10. When you read a series, do you prefer the books to be sequential with the same main character (like the Million Dollar Mysteries) or just loosely connected (like the Women of Lancaster County)?
Sequential—if it’s a good enough series that I’m able to remember the details from the previous books. If not, then loosely connected is easier to read.

Set it on an island and I'm so there!
11. Are there certain geographic settings (for example a Caribbean island, the Arizona desert, Paris, etc.) that you especially enjoy when reading a novel?
I love stories of survival, especially on a deserted island. I also love to read novels set in Louisiana—ifthe writer is from there and really knows what he or she is talking about. (If not, I just get irritated.)

12. What book would make for an interesting discussion in a book club? 
Hmmm… Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (another great discovery my readers told me about) or maybe Rabbit by Patricia Williams. I know I would've loved having someone to discuss these books with after I finished reading them.

13. What's your personal "loan policy" when it comes to the books you own? (As in, do you keep a record, establish a time limit, loan them out freely, never loan them to anyone, etc.) 
These days, because of eye issues, I only read audible books, so loaning isn’t an issue. But back when I read with my eyes rather than my ears, I would do one of two things. If it was a good book but not a great one, I’d loan it freely or usually just give it away since I didn’t plan to keep it. If it was a special book that I treasured, I’d loan it very carefully and makes sure to keep a record and to follow up if it didn’t make its way back to me.

14. What distracts you when you’re trying to read?
When I’m in the zone, I rarely get distracted unless someone is speaking directly to me—and even then, it takes me a minute to snap back to reality.

15. What makes you love a book?
When I can't put it down. When it stays on my mind. When I absolutely adore the main character. When I cannot predict the plot. When the writing sings. 

Speaking of when the writing sings, I thought I'd share this lovely quote from a recent read...

By the way, in case you'd like to pass along this list of questions to any of your other reader friends, here they are again, minus the answers. Feel free to copy, paste, and share as desired!

1. What’s one of the best books you read in 2018?

2. When you were growing up, who in your life absolutely loved to read?

3. Read any inspiring biographies lately?

4. What's one book you're embarrassed to admit you've never read?

5. What book(s) are you currently reading?

6. If you could sit down with an author and ask any question about writing or publishing, what would that question be?

7. One book at a time or several?

8. Which fictional character makes you swoon?

9. Standalone or series, what's your preference? 

10. When you read a series, do you prefer the books to be sequential with the same main character (like the Million Dollar Mysteries) or just loosely connected (like the Women of Lancaster County)?11. Are there certain geographic settings (for example a Caribbean island, the Arizona desert, Paris, etc.) that you especially enjoy when reading a novel?

12. What book would make for an interesting discussion in a book club? 

13. What's your personal "loan policy" when it comes to the books you own? (As in, do you keep a record, establish a time limit, loan them out freely, never loan them to anyone, etc.) 

14. What distracts you when you’re trying to read?

15. What makes you love a book?

Thanks for letting me share, and I hope to see you over on Facebook!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

May 2019 Christian Fiction Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:
When Love Won't Wait by Roger E. Bruner -- Laugh at Pastor Dan’s impulsive efforts to get out of the ministry and marry a woman of his own choosing by going against his domineering widowed mother’s wishes. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

  A Perfect Amish Match by Vannetta Chapman -- After three failed relationships, Amish bachelor Noah Graber would rather disappoint his parents than try again. But when matchmaker Olivia Mae Miller agrees to provide courting lessons, Noah’s perfect match becomes clear—it’s Olivia Mae herself! With ailing grandparents at home, she hadn’t planned on love or marriage. Might a future with Noah be everything she’s been missing? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sing a New Song by Candee Fick -- Songbird Gloria Houghton has always needed to be the center of attention, but the spotlight has shifted. Seeking fame and a fresh start, she finds a new stage in Branson, Missouri...only to risk being replaced by a manipulative rival. If Gloria can’t be the star, who is she? Jack-of-all-trades Nick Sherwood is just one leaf on a vast family tree that includes a restaurant chef, hotel owners, and even the headline act at a family-owned theater. He’s seen how fame can blind a person with jealousy and is more than content to stay in the background thank you very much. If only he wasn’t so fascinated--and irritated--by the newest addition to the staff. After a disaster of a first impression and financial difficulties land Gloria in the humblest of jobs—with Nick as her boss—it might be time for her to learn to sing a new song. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

 Pigtails and a Tool Belt by Janetta Fudge-Messmer -- The Christian Romance where circumstances seem impossible. But with God – all things are possible. (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)

  Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner -- After four years of dating Will, Cadie questions his love for her and sends him packing. Their breakup only makes Will more determined to become the man Cadie wants him to be. With the help of his work buddies and tactics drawn from Cadie's favorite romantic comedies, he devises a "foolproof" plan. What could possibly go wrong? (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)

General Contemporary:
Over the Waters by Deborah Raney -- As "Dr. Botox" to the bored rich women of Chicago, plastic surgeon Max Jordan was shocked by the decision of his son, Joshua, to focus his medical talent on Haitian orphans. Embittered by Joshua's death, Max searches for resolution in the very place his son called home. The selfless labor of Joshua's coworkers stuns Max. He is particularly taken by American volunteer Valerie Austin, whose dream of a honeymoon on a tropical beach were crushed, replaced by a stint working in the impoverished orphanage. But Valerie's view of Joshua's sacrifice challenges everything Max has lived for. Now Max wonders if he can ever return to his "Max-a-Million" lifestyle, or if the doors to his gilded cage have finally opened. (General Contemporary from Raney Day Press)

True Freedom by Carol Ashby -- When a Roman slave rescues his master’s daughter from the kidnapping arranged by her own brother, will his sacrificial service earn the freedom and love he never dreamed possible, or will it only end in death? (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Historical Romance:
The Daughter's Predicament by Mary Eileen Davis -- Can a patient love win her heart? As Isabelle Atwood’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams. While making a quilt for her own hope chest, Isabelle’s half-sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock and Isabelle--always the unfavored daughter--becomes the family sacrifice to save face. Isabelle loves her sister, but with three suitors interested, will she really allow herself to be manipulated into a marriage without love? Or will the man leaving her secret love poems sweep her off her feet? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

  Mail-Order Mishaps by Susan Page Davis, Linda Ford, Vickie McDonough, and Erica Vetsch -- In The Bride’s Dilemma by Susan Page Davis, Eve Martin arrives in Cheyenne to learn that man she came to marry is in jail, accused of a violent murder. But has God brought her here to help save Caleb Blair’s life? In Romancing the Rancher by Linda Ford, Amelia expects a safe home for herself and her niece in Montana as mail-order bride to Zach Taggerty. Only Zach has never heard of her. In The Marriage Sham by Vickie McDonough, Texas mail-order bride Zola Bryant is a widowed newlywed. Worse, they were never truly wed because the officiant was an outlaw not a preacher. What will she do now that her life and reputation are in tatters? In The Galway Girl by Erica Vetsch, a mail-order mix-up sends Irish lass Maeve O’Reilly to the Swedish community of Lindsborg, Kansas. Will Kaspar Sandberg consider it a happy accident or a disaster to be rectified as soon as possible? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

  Lord of Her Heart by Sherrinda Ketchersid -- Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth. Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for. Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite of her conniving ways. Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only way either of them survives. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

  Love's Belief by Linda Shenton Matchett -- When the Third Reich implements mandates that require Jewish babies and other “undesirables” to be killed as part of The Final Solution, is midewife Pia Hertz’s new faith in Christ strong enough to defy the laws of man? Dieter Fertig is relieved he’s no longer part of Hitler’s army, despite the reason--a battle that cost his arm. After he returns to Berlin, only to discover the Nuremburg Laws require his best friend’s baby girl to be killed, he must find a way to spirit the child out of Germany before the Nazis discover her existence. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

  Shelter Bay by Pamela S. Meyers -- Adventurous bicyclist Maureen Quinn and her best friend, Preston Stevens, a member of the U.S. Life Saving Service, find love and face life-altering events on the shores of Lake Michigan. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Fallen Leaf by Julie B. Cosgrove -- When a DNA kit reveals blond, blue-eyed Jessica Warren is half Cherokee, she confronts her adoptive parents and learns her birth father is in prison...for murder! Now he wants her help in exonerating him. Can Jessica trust the handsome, young Tulsa district attorney to help, or does he have an agenda of his own? (Cozy Mystery from Write Integrity Press)

  Bitter Pill by Richard L. Mabry, MD -- Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled them up. (Medical Mystery, Independently Published)

  Latter-day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott -- Kirsten Young, a well-known and rebellious Utah heiress, is found murdered in Provo Canyon. The strange markings carved into her flesh and the note written in 19th century code seem to cast a shadow on ancient Mormon laws. Journalist Selonnah Zee is assigned to cover the story-- and it quickly grows out of control. (Historical Mystery from Moody)

Romantic Suspense:
Running Target by Elizabeth Goddard -- A routine patrol turns deadly when marine deputy Bree Carrington’s boat is sunk by men carrying illegal weapons. Fleeing a barrage of bullets, she’s suddenly rescued by DEA agent Quinn Strand—her ex-boyfriend. Quinn’s return threatens more than Bree’s heart…because he’s the one the men are really after. As criminals hunt her to get to him, can Quinn and Bree take down a drug ring? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Pages of Her Life by James L. Rubart -- Allison Moore's dad was living a secret life and left her mom in massive debt. As she scrambles to help her mom find a way out, she’s given a journal, anonymously, during a visit to her favorite coffee shop. The pressure to rescue her mom mounts, and Allison pours her fears and heartache into the journal. But then the unexplainable happens. The words in the journal, her words, begin to disappear. And new ones fill the empty spaces—words that force her to look at everything she knows about herself in a new light. Ignoring those words could cost her everything…but so could embracing them. (Speculative from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Your One Stop Book Club Resource

Did you know that there are all sorts of resources available if your book club wants to read one of my books? Whether you need Discussion Questions, interesting background info to share, or fun freebies, my website is the place to start. At the bottom of this post, I'll insert links to all of these things, but first I'd like to tell you about the Helen R Taylor Book Club of Pace, Florida.

Me, Myself, and Irene

Recently, I received an email from one of the club's members, Irene, who said that her group was reading The Trouble With Tulip and was in need of discussion questions for their upcoming meeting. I was so happy to hear it and glad to help. I simply love it when book clubs choose my books! She ended her email with this:

Any suggestions for the book club?  I requested some of your book list bookmarks, thank you.  We are making the chocolate chips and chow mein noodle cookies. Also, I will give each member a frozen sos pad in a baggie with a tulip sticker  :) ...Suggestions would be appreciated.

In response, I sent her the link to The Trouble with Tulip discussion questions, adding:

Love your ideas with the cookies and the SOS pads. That’s great!  Other ideas I’ve heard about in the past include:

     - giving everyone a tulip bulb that they can take home and plant
     - giving everyone a tulip-shaped lollipop
     - having each person share a favorite household hint (one that wasn’t in the book!)

It’s not much but I hope that helps.  

I also asked Irene if she would mind following up with me once the meeting was over and even send pics if possible so I could share them on here. She graciously agreed. 

The group met on March 25th and followed their usual routine of blessing the snacks, eating, setting the next book club meeting particulars, and then diving into the discussion of the book. Judging by her email and the photos she sent, it sounds like a great time was had by all. Irene said: 

Notice Tulip's go-to snack, chow mein noodles mixed with chocolate morsels, were the main attraction on the treats table. The frozen scouring pads were a hit, tell Tulip thanks for that great tip :)

Talking it Out

They also had a good, meaty discussion, as she describes here: 

The discussion questions were perfect. The conversations about the characters and how we can learn from them in real life was great. This is a big military area so the discussion was lively about how moving around a lot affects your life.  

She ended by saying:

Books two and three in this series are already making the rounds with this group. Thank you again for helping to make this night special for us.

No, thank you, Irene, for getting in touch, following up, and giving me permission to share about it here on my blog. Glad your meeting was a such a hit!

Resources for Your Book Club

As for your own book club, let's start with the free promo items, since you can order them all from the same place no matter which of my books your club is reading. To request free goodies for your club members, click on this link and fill out the simple form:

For discussion questions and/or interesting info that might be helpful at an upcoming book club meeting, simply click on any of the links below. And if you have any fun ideas from past book club gatherings of your own, please let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page.  Enjoy!

The Million Dollar Mysteries
   • Read FAQs about the series
   • Explore articles, videos, interviews, and other info about this series
   • A Penny for Your Thoughts Discussion Questions
   Learn more about the song "Quarter for a Kiss", read the lyrics, and listen to an excerpt

The Smart Chick Mysteries
   • Read FAQs about the series
   • Explore articles and other info about this series
   • Read the story of Jo's dog Chewie
   • The Trouble with Tulip Discussion Questions
   • Elementary, My Dear Watkins Discussion Questions

   • The House That Cleans Itself Discussion Questions

Standalone Mysteries
   • Explore articles and other info about my Standalone Mysteries
   • Read Fact v. Fiction for four of my Standalone Mysteries
   • Read a fun interview about Beauty to Die For
   • Whispers of the Bayou Discussion Questions
   • Shadows of Lancaster County Discussion Questions
   • Under the Cajun Moon Discussion Questions
   • Secrets of Harmony Grove Discussion Questions 
   • Echoes of Titanic  Discussion Questions

The Women of Lancaster County Series
   • Read FAQs about the series
   • Download the series family tree
   • Learn how the 5 books in the series are connected 
   • Explore articles, podcasts, interviews, and other info about the series
   • The Amish Midwife Discussion Questions
   • The Amish Nanny Discussion Questions
   • The Amish Bride Discussion Questions
   • The Amish Seamstress Discussion Questions
   • The Amish Quilter Discussion Questions

The Men of Lancaster County Series
   • Read FAQs about the series
   • Explore articles, podcasts, interviews, and other info about this series 
   • The Amish Groom Discussion Questions
   • The Amish Blacksmith Discussion Questions
   • The Amish Clockmaker Discussion Questions

Cousins of the Dove Series
   • Enjoy a fun infographic about the characters
   • Read FAQs about the series
   • Explore articles and info about the series
   • Read Lilies on Daybreak Pond, a free e-book prequel short story to the series
   • My Brother's Crown Discussion Questions
   • My Sister's Prayer Discussion Questions
   • My Daughter's Legacy Discussion Questions